Choristers in cloaks trudge through the snow in Peterborough ahead of the service at the cathedral. Elsewhere the weather caused chaos at airports and on the roads
‘There will be plenty of lying snow plus the risk of ice in areas which saw snow yesterday’
SNOW caused chaos at airports and on roads across the country yesterday, with people delayed and cars stranded as much of Britain ground to a halt.
Flights were diverted, delayed and cancelled at Heathrow, where disruption was blamed on planes having to be de-iced before take-off, resulting in a lack of “parking space” for incoming flights. At the west London airport, passengers complained of being trapped on a British Airways plane on the ground for more than four hours with no information from the airline.
Four British Airways flights heading for Heathrow had to be diverted to Newcastle, 300 miles away. The de-icing process is believed to have affected both outgoing and incoming flights, with planes not able to land because other aircraft were still in the stands.
British Airways was inundated with messages from unhappy customers on social media, who complained of long waits on the tarmac and no response on their customer service phone line.
The airline apologised on Twitter for the “problems and inconvenience”.
A Heathrow spokesman said: “The airport remains open, but we regret that weather across the UK is resulting in some passengers experiencing disruption. Airlines are responsible for ensuring flights are fully de-iced before they are operated and this is resulting in delays and cancellations.”
A British Airways spokesman said: “Safety is our priority, especially when dealing with very challenging weather conditions. At times when we haven’t been able to operate flights into Heathrow as planned, we have been looking after customers, providing refreshments and hotel accommodation.”
Luton and Birmingham airports temporarily closed their runways yesterday because of the snow.
Meanwhile, on the roads, Highways England blamed conditions that led to multiple crashes and stranded hundreds of cars on one of Britain’s busiest motorways on a lack of vehicles.
Traffic was brought to a standstill on the M40 in Warwickshire, with motorists complaining that they had not seen any gritters, and that the road had been left covered in dangerous ice and slush.
Carl Palmer, a driver, said the motorway looked “like a war zone, with crashed cars everywhere, others spinning around”, while Rebecca Matthews said the situation was “shambolic”, with people forced to get out and push their cars up slip-roads.
Highways England said that it had eight gritters patrolling but that there had not been enough cars in the morning to adequately spread rock salt.
“There was a lot of snow, and the action of the salt relies on traffic. As it was a Sunday and the emergency services were telling people not to drive, there was not enough cars for the salt to be effective,” a spokesman said.
The RAC warned drivers to expect “Black Monday” this morning as black ice brought treacherous conditions.
The worst snowstorms to hit Britain for four years closed roads and schools, left whole towns without power and grounded flights over the weekend.
The Army was placed on standby and the police urged motorists not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
Heavy snowfall hit the Midlands, the Home Counties and Wales yesterday, leading the Met Office to issue an amber weather warning, the first for such a large area since 2013. Trains were cancelled because of points failures and bus routes abandoned.
Rail firms were running “ghost trains” overnight to clear snow and ice, while Network Rail deployed its thermal-imaging helicopter and 34 de-icing trains to keep tracks clear.
Up to four inches of snow was expected across much of England overnight, while forecasters warned of double that in higher areas.
The Met Office also warned of dangerous rush-hour conditions this morning. Sarah Kent, a Met Office forecaster, said: “There will be plenty of lying snow from yesterday plus the risk of ice and black ice in areas which saw yesterday’s snow and rain.”
The entire town of Bicester in Oxfordshire lost power on Saturday and Bicester Village shopping centre was forced to close early yesterday. Some 18,000 homes were reconnected after losing power on Friday, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks said.
The Heart of England trust in the West Midlands appealed for drivers to help after hospitals were left with nurse shortages. Meanwhile, a cross-channel P&O ferry bound for Dover with 316 people on board ran aground at Calais.
Snow flurries are expected to continue until Wednesday and freezing conditions are expected to return next weekend.
Clockwise from main picture: Glen Moriston in Scotland; vehicles queue on the A417; children in London enjoy a day sledging; queues at Heathrow; tug boats rescue a P & O ferry that ran aground in Calais; and a camper van crushed by a tree